Thoughts on the Origins

Elsner, Reijo


This article is pointing to some of the striking similarities between some of Gurdjieff's ideas and some other disciplines.

In my studies of Gurdjieff's ideas I have found very little in the existing literature of Christianity as the source of his teaching. When Gurdjieff told Ouspensky that he was teaching esoteric Christianity he was not referring to the nonsense 'Eastern Esotericism' that Boris Mouravieff began to promote in his books called Gnosis!

Many of the 'Real Efforts' in finding the origins of the ideas have overlooked the importance of the influences Gurdjieff received at his home and in his youth. It looks like it has been more interesting to maintain the picture of Gurdjieff as a travelling hero, who is hanging on a spinkle bridge over a grotto while he is being shot at from all sides with stray bullets. We can thank Gurdjieff himself for providing this setting in 'Meetings with Remarkable Men'.

The early incluences were often connected with Christianity. His father and the whole family, his tutors in his youth, his studies and later the companions in 'Seekers after Truth' had a strong religious disposition.

Christianity was established in Armenia soon after the Birth of Christ. However, the predominant church in Kars and Alexandropol, where the Giorgiades familiy lived, was the Russian Orthodox Church. Gurjieff said that he knew the Greek Orthodox Church well - no doubt the same goes for the Russian Orthodox Church. Kars Military Cathedral became an Orthodox Cathedral in 1877 catering for the spiritual needs of the Russian military population.

By 1900 there were 800 monasteries in Russia, 17.000 professed monks and nuns and nearly 30.000 novices. Dobrotolyubie, better known as Philokalia, was translated into Russian by Bishop Theophan the Recluse and published in 1877. In 1884 'Sincere Tales of a Pilgrim to his Spiritual Father' was published. In the Optino Monastery Staretz Ambrose died in 1891. Theophan the Recluse died in 1894. There was plenty of truth and lots of knowledge available for seekers like Gurdjieff, who were interested in it!

Self Remembering

Smrti = Memory or repeated recollection is the principal item in devotional practice. This practice may be termed Smrti-Sadhana. It consists in recalling the feeling experienced at the time of contemplating a subject and in feeling that it is being remembered and will be remembered. When this is achieved memory is retained firmly in the mind which is the only means of getting into the habitual state of one-pointedness of the mind. One-pointedness is attained when the memory becomes permanently established.

The highest practice relates to constant rememberance of the discrimination between the Purusa and the Prakrti, the pure Consciousness and the Knowable. While practising this, the thoughts arising in the mind should be kept before the mind as it were, i.e. your thought-process should alwayas be the subject of your scrutiny and no foreign idea, i.e. nothing other than that which is being thought of, should be allowed to crop up therein, and you should go on watching what your mind is receiving. This is the chief means of cleansing your mind, i.e. for attaining self- purification. This is the best form of Smrti-Sadhana.

Without Smrti-Sadhana pure consciousness can not be realised. The cultivation of memory can be practised in the midst of all actions, even while walking, sitting or lying down. If when we are engaged in wordly pursuits, we can keep in mind the object of spiritual contemplation and carefully notice that it is never absent from the mind, we may be said to be working, established in a yogic state.

In Smrti-Sadhana we must always watch what is rising in the mind, and abandoning the disturbed state must keep the mind undisturbed and in a volitionless state. That is the correct way of purifying the mind and attaining tranquil knowledge. When the memory becomes firmly established and self-forgetfullness disappears altogether, then the Samadhi that ensues from being engrossed in self only, is real Samprajnata-Yoga.

Swami Hariharananda Aranya
Founder of the Kapila Monastery
Copyright © Kapila Monastery
Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali

Notes from a Meeting with Lizelle Reymond

These notes are made during a weekend of discussions and readings in 1979 in Geneva, where Lizelle Reymond lived at the time. The book she was working on, which she called her sacred task, was called 'The Three Pilgrimages'. She intended it to follow the ideas put forth in her book 'To Live Within'. I do not know if the book is published. The short excerpts are out of context, but make sense as kind of aforisms. Most of these are directly from Sri Anirvan, who was her teacher in Samkhya and Sahaja disciplines. He adviced Lizelle Reymonds in her writing.

The first pilgrimage is alone to the mountain, which is living the truth, the search for the self, the inner climb towards freedom; climbing as high as you can.

The second pilgrimage is to the sea, abandonment of the I; dropping the ego into the sea.

The third pilgrimage is to the luminous being hidden in the heart; living in the Void the Ego left.

When you know death within, you know life within. I see no difference between life and death. To sit straight is truly to be living within. To sit straight is to think straight.

You are a child that knows nothing. You are pure as long as you do not cling. A child smiles, next moment makes an ugly face. That is life as it is. Teach children through your presence, not your words.

Actions do not matter at all. They can only benefit your self. If your actions clear your vision, they are useful. Your personal law is the law of activity.

Don't manufacture for the crowd; create for your own joy. Things arrange themselves automatically around you. Be in the world, but never of it. Don't create circumstances, action always produces reaction. First you must be nothing. The spirit is - manifestation does. You are both. Here and at home you are alone, accept it, taste it. You must remain lonely as a peak.

Gurdjieff never had groups; what matters is atmosphere. All philosophies are like a pile of dead leaves. Knowledge is simply finding unity in the many; arrangeing things around an idea. Knowledge must be living and life must be knowing. You see a part and think it is the whole. We have simply to understand what goes on. Never fail to watch the game.

You feel that you know nothing. Let the mind rest a while. Let it quiet itself, otherwise there is no chance for consciousness. Never say that there is an end, go on. There is only one existence. All of us are nothing but repetitions.

Pace of life is getting faster and so is the speed of the mind. We have forgotten how to suffer mechanically. Why bring the mind into it?

India is a vast laboratory for spiritual experiment. The total awareness of the 'many' and the 'one' is the Samkhya Purusa. Prakrti is an acorn. Harmony is to be found only in two ways: in the mothers heart and the fathers look. Prakrti and Purusha.

You can only be truthful when you are free. Everybody has a humorous side. It is better to laugh than to be serious. I observed his look of amusement on my doings. Don't care, simply enjoy the fun.

Stones and seeds are different. If you make a pile of stones, the heap increases. If you put one seed in the ground, it can grow.

Love must be impersonal.

Copyright © Lizelle Reymond
New Book Section
Written from the notes made by Reijo Elsner

Man is a Machine

I included here one page of the St. Theophan The Recluse's book The Spiritual Life - and how to be attuned to it, but have now deleted it. I wrote an e-mail to the copyright holders to ask St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood for permission to put the text on the website and received the following e-mail answer:

Dear Mr. Elsner---
Please forgive us, but we are unable to give permission to print the text from St. Theophan's book on your website, since the Orthodox Church condemns the teachings of Gurdieff.

St. Herman of Alaska Monastery

The above was later corrected by one of the power possessors of the monastery, but that did not change the attitude of the monastery to the requested permission to quote from the book. I was told that a person who knows of the Gurdjieff's teaching will be put in contact with me.

However, no contact has been made and the interesting article about 'Man is a Machine', in which St. Theophan compares man to sewing machines, remains in the book. The book is interesting and can be bought under the writer's name in our Book section.